I took a deep breath and inhaled the almost pollution free air in New Zealand. Just arrived and picked up by the owner of my assignment I felt very happy to be back. For another two months I’d been traveling in Europe and now I happily had arrived at my eight months house sitting assignment in Mana.
The owners, an American and a New Zealander, just had retired and bought this estate recently. In fact, as I arrived the builders were still busy finishing up errands. Jenny told me that they bought the house to stay in New Zealand over the summer and to be a bit closer to their grandchildren and family. In winter they would go back to their estate in California, US. We didn’t have much time together and as they left the next morning we had discussed all necessities and a detailed manual lay down at the table.
A brand new house really is a tread and with no pets to take care of, I was looking forward to a great stay with not much obligations. When I had assigned for this house sit, back in Auckland, my thought was to find out, what visa options I had to make a living here.
After Jenny and David had left I moved my stuff from the guest room into the main bedroom with a walk-in closet and separated bathroom. With another three bedrooms, a bathroom, office and living room with open kitchen and a huge terrace, I had plenty of space and that really was much to my liking.
The first few days I settle in and started my daily routine as usual. Near the end of autumn, the weather got a bit nasty with more rain and cold winds on the coast.
Wellington was only half an hour by train away, so I started exploring the city first. In 2017 Wellington was named the ‘most liveliest city in the world’. Enough reason for me to go and find out myself. I remember my first visit quite well because while sitting on the waterfront, having lunch and a beer, I met Julie from Hamilton. She walked over to my table and asked what I was doing holding my phone up and speaking into the camera. With a big grin, I told her that I documented my stay here for my friends in Europe. She asked if she can sit on my table and we had our first beer, of many to follow. We ‘clicked’ right from the start and by the end of the afternoon, the sunset had long gone, we were drinking cocktails. Seriously drunk and in good spirits we walked to the train station together and as we said our goodbyes, we promised to keep in touch.
Well, normally you would think that never happens, but this time it worked. A few months later I visited her in Hamilton for the first time. Taking a trip with the Northern Explorer gave me a chance to travel along the coast and through the country, enjoying the massive green fields and breathtaking nature. By the time I traveled to Hamilton, I had learned about the coffee culture, visited Wellington museum and adjusted myself well to the relaxed Kiwi lifestyle.
One thing, in particular, stunned me. Because of the rain and cold, I was forced to stop my outside activity and went into hibernation. Sounds funny I know but that what it feels like. I really cannot handle cold and wet very well and searching for a way to warm up my body, I looked up the next sauna. To my surprise sauna isn’t that much of a common thing to do in New Zealand. While in Europe you easily find huge saunas, here you can be lucky if the nearest swim hall does have one at all. But lucky as I am, the Aquatic swim hall in Porirua just had opened their newly renovated sauna.
Getting lazy also meant some ‘extra’ pounds had settled on my hips. So I took advantage of going to the swim hall and set up a new routine. Forty laps in the pool and three rounds of the sauna, next to the 4 times yoga did the job for me now.
And something else happened, every morning I was sitting on the terrace listening to the sounds of birds. One day I recognized a cat walking through the bushes, staring at me. A week went by and her circles got smaller. I started calling her, but she kept her distance. About four weeks later she finally felt confident enough and started to walk around my legs. Then she started talking to me giving me the funniest sounds I’ve ever heard from a cat. So I sat down and waited until she came close and allowed me to touch her for the first time. Me guessing that she belongs to a neighbour, I didn’t feed her. But then she seemed to be hungry and I started throwing out the fatty parts of my bacon, which I always cut off. She liked that and so I started sharing my bacon with her.
Weeks went by and she now came every morning and evening to get her share, but only bacon she ate. I tried chicken, ham, and tuna but she didn’t touch it. Industrial cat food she didn’t like either, so I ended up buying plenty of bacon to have enough in the house for her. One day while she was talking to me I said: “Okay, I call you Bacon the cat all right? She probably liked it, because every time I shout: “Bacon, where are you?” she came running to me. After some more weeks, she looked through the open door for the first time and cautiously stepped inside. One foot after the other very cautious and only for a short moment, then she turned around and quickly ran outside again. This play went one for a few days. Step by step she dared to walk more into the house and curiously looked around. By now I feed her 2 slices of bacon mornings and evenings outside in a bowl. Every time she had finished her breakfast she came inside, walked around discovering the house while talking endlessly.
Next step, she inhabited to jump on my lap while I was working on the kitchen table. Or at least I tried working because with her getting more comfortable she had no better in mind than walking over my laptop rubbing her nose on the edges, sitting down in front of me and seeking attention. She was hanging around almost every day now and one day while I had a nap on the couch, she jumped on and nestled herself in my lab. But before she lay down she had to customize the space by pushing her paws for minutes into the soft fabric of my rope, like kittens do when they stimulate their mother breast to feed. The whole situation developed much to my liking because I am used to having animals around me. The most house sits are literally pet sits and I really missed having a pet in the first weeks of my stay. Now I had ‘Bacon the cat’ and it was time to introduce the cat flap to her. From her reaction, I could see that she did not know what it was. Looking with caution and slowly put her paw first to see what it does. I explained to her how to use it and smart as she was she picked it up quickly.
From that day on she also started to sleep inside on the couch. Winter had started and it got chilly outside. Bacon loved to cuddle up between my legs and felt deeply asleep. When it was bedtime I woke her up, she’d lift her head, looking at me and with no sound showed her dislike. I felt like as if she would complain that she had to sleep on the couch and not in bed with me. It really was the sweetest thing, watching her refusing to move and open her mouth but no sound came out. Her lower lip was half white and half black which made it even sweeter. Another thing I loved about Bacon the cat was that I just told her once to do her business outside. And she did understand right from the start, really. Not once she peed or pooped inside, always around 10 pm she got up from my lap, walked outside and was back half an hour later, really fascinating.
One day I discovered a deep bite mark on her right leg. Guessing that it was from a neighbour dog I started treating it with chamomile. She licked it often and her fur got off, so I did not want to use any other medicine and after a few weeks, it had healed just fine. Then my suspicion was confirmed as one day a big black dog walked through the backyard sniffing around. Well, I may have to add that the whole place didn’t have fencing, just trees, and bushes. I wouldn’t have registered that dog if not for Bacon, sitting on the balustrade suddenly she looked up alerted and ready to jump. Her eyes were pinned on the dog and she followed every move that dog made. Luckily that dog sniffed his way up to the backstreet and out of our backyard again, didn’t even recognize us
I never had bonded with a cat like that before, Bacon attached to me so well and I felt deep compassion for her as well. For me, it looked like as she had been growing since I had met her first and I couldn’t help but thinking that she had chosen me to be her main home. She kept me warm and every morning she stood in front of the bedroom door calling me until I opened up the door and let her in. Sometimes she crawled under the sheets and rested on my chest for an hour or so before I finally woke up and we started to play hide and seek.
When not exploring I kept myself busy with finding a publisher for my book and looking for options to retrain a visa. The latter was quite limited. The best option was finding a job, the second option of finding a guy! Well, both options did not appeal much to me. Neither was I thrilled with the idea to find a job (still developing as a writer and with my first book on its way to publishing), nor was finding a suitable guy on my mind (after my Tinder dating experience).
Not much left for me as to accept the fact though that I had to leave by the end of the year and by doing so just enjoyed my time with Bacon and some lovely friends I had connected with when I joined a Bach Flower course in Wellington and in that yoga class in Paremata.
However, as an island girl and with winter in full force it was time for vacation. With my fifties birthday coming up I figured gifting myself a week on an island is a fair birthday present. So I drove to Wellington walked into the next travel agency and while waiting in line a poster of Fiji and Rarotonga was displayed on the wall. Well, I thought that looks good and as it was my turn I seated myself in front of the agent. Pointing my finger on the poster I asked: “Which one is the smaller island?” She answered: “This would definitely be Rarotonga.” And so I booked a flight ticket with her and later at home a room on Airbnb.
Last week of September had arrived and I was ready for some sun. When I left I told Bacon ‘the cat’ that I go away for a week, thinking that by the time I’ll be back, she probably would have found another home, if she didn’t have one already.
But it was just the opposite. Eight days later I just had arrived back home and started to unpack again, she stood outside the cat flap, pushing her paw against the closed flap loudly complaining. Once inside she first welcomed me by circling around my legs, then ran to the fridge gesturing me that she was hungry. I didn’t have any Bacon in the fridge, so I tried a pack of chicken breast I’d left. To my surprise, she was all over it and finished the whole pack in just a few minutes. As we later cuddled up on the couch I watched her chest moving up and down and for the first time, it appeared to me, that she might don’t have a home at all and was really waiting for me to come back.
Indeed, from that day on she even stayed closer. Always following my steps and lying next to me wherever I was sitting. Even when I tanned she was staying close, hanging out in the rare spots of shade.
She even awaited me on the top of the stairs every time I came back from yoga class. It really touched my heart and I got hitched with that sweet bundle of love and affection.
If a visitor knocked on the door she jumped up and ran out into the bushes. Eventually, she came back later, when she felt hungry, but was very cautious and preferred to eat outside. She never really felt comfortable with other people around; it was just me she was happy to be with. I tried and called her when friends came over, saying that there’s no harm. But she wouldn’t warm up to them, maybe came a bit closer stopping next to my legs and after a few minutes, she would walk away again. It made me think that she probably had had an unpleasant experience with humans before.
The funniest thing was her joining me when tanning. One day I fell asleep and when I woke up, she was lying between my legs. How can you not fall in love? Although the sun was strong she just wanted to be close to me. So sweet isn’t it?
With only a few weeks to stay, I started feeling unhappy to leave her. What to do, I asked myself and even talked about it with some friends. It didn’t feel right for me to bring her to a shelter, knowing that her home was this area. I just liked that she stayed on her free will and didn’t want to put boundaries on that. I pretty much sensed that Bacon ‘the cat’ was a bit like me, a free spirit, and a nomad which does not belong in a restricted environment at all. The whole situation occupied my mind for some days and I certainly had to come to terms with it. The fact that I had to leave soon didn’t make it any easier. But then I reminded that life is an experience of encounters in which each event is an exchange of energy. So I accepted the fact that Bacon ‘the cat’ came into my life to accompany me while here and that this exactly was what it was. Besides I knew that she also had had the time of her life hanging out with me and our energetic bond just was what we both needed at the time. I remembered a dog I once got from the animal shelter, Kali, she came to me depressed and after a year I had given her back trust and believe in humans again. About a week before I had to leave Bacon ‘the cat’ we had a very intimate and emotional moment together, in which I shed some tears while explaining that I’d have to leave soon and how much I loved her but our time was almost up. And suddenly she put her paw on my lower arm and looked at me straight. Like as she would comfort me, gesturing that’s ok with her. And that same experience I had with Kali when I had to give her away, so for the second time in my life, I learned that animals sense how we feel and although they may not understand the words we speak, they do understand how we feel and what we try to say.
After that, I recognized that she sometimes stayed out at night and came only back in the morning. Either she was looking for another home already or she was enjoying spring and the warmer temperatures. Both ways we had our understanding and it felt good that way. On my last evening, I had invited most people I’d met for a last get together. Only July was missing but I’d been to Hamilton again end of October when they had a huge bonfire and we celebrated my birthday that weekend. And I felt so blessed and humbled when July gifted me a ‘Toki’ which is that green stone you only can get in New Zealand and my symbol stands for the elderly, wise people of a tribe. Till the day I wear it exclusively and it protects me from negative energies and people. The party and fun we had really are one to remember and I hope to see them all again in the future.
Back to my last evening, all ladies invited brought some nipples and drinks. And here comes the part where I, with much love in my heart, really want to thank Adibah, her husband and their two lovely boys for bringing me to the Sunday market in Wellington, what a great day we had.
Thanks to Tania for taking me to that cool car event (still have to make that movie though), walking the beach with your beloved dog and great talks.
Fricke my German mate for our occasional extended walks, coffee and beer chats. Lauren for her really unique yoga classes (if by chance you be in Paremata it’s a must to participate at least once). Merav for introducing and inviting me for lunch in her den and on top of that preparing and dishing up a complete dinner at the party (if you understand that food is medicine contact her for expertise and guidance, she really is amazing). Bridget for her great coaching sessions and tea times she shared with me as a fellow Libran (also based in Paremata she really is the address to contact when needing some support in finding your path, try it and say hello from me). Althea and Marc for a fun afternoon and all the support in ‘crafting’ my writing and the offer to help me with the English translation of ‘Rosalinda’. And all the other Kiwis I had the pleasure to meet, while in New Zealand. You all played a big part in me having a great time in your country. I really was touched by all your kindness and wondered a bit at the end, if I really had done enough to create an opportunity to stay?
Besides, thanks for taking care of the clothes and other stuff I couldn’t take with me and therefore I didn’t have to throw it away. Although you took a trash back full of clothes to the recycle bin, the next morning I even had to leave some more stuff behind and while check-in still had 3 kg too much! Downsizing on its finest, because 23 kg is much to less if you consider that this is all my belongings.
After they had left and it was silent again, Bacon walked in for the last time. She nestled herself on the couch I cuddled and kissed her before I went to bed for a short sleep. When I got up in the wee hours she looked a bit confused but walked out with me as I pulled my suitcase down the stairs. When I turned around for the last time, I saw her standing on the stairs watching me stepping in the waiting cap. I wiped away a tear and remembered what you all had said: “We don’t say goodbye, we say see you.” I and really hope we do.
I truly never had a more close and loving relationship with a cat. It felt so very special to me then and still to the day I do miss her and get emotional when I think about her.
One last word, being in New Zealand for eight months sure there’s a lot more I could have been writing about. But then it’s just a blog and if I didn’t mention some events or people don’t think I forgot about you.
Now I’ve to wait a year before I am eligible to come back to the land of the wizard. And in the meantime, I am busy to promote my book in Germany.